Heonjoo Ha

Headshot of Heonjoo Ha Hometown: Daegu, South Korea

Research Area: Stimuli responsive polymers

Why I chose chemical engineering: My father is currently a chemical engineering professor in South Korea, and he is also majoring in polymer science specifically. I had a lot of influence from my father when I was growing up, and I always dreamed of becoming a polymer scientist just like him. Above that, chemical engineering not only incorporates mathematics and economics, but also embraces a variety of science fields and applications. These fields can include polymer, bio engineering, and computational science, which all have intimate relationships with our daily lives. It fascinates me that I have so many things to learn every day.

The lab I work in and my role: I work in Dr. Ellison’s lab. My role is to conduct experiments to make new polymers that can be used in actual applications, and to become an expert in my research topics. Also I make a lot of failures, learn from them, come up with new idea, then do it all over again and again, so it can be integrated and succeed in the end! 

My plans after UT: I haven’t decided yet whether I will proceed to do a post-doc after graduating or not. But eventually I am hoping to do research in a national lab or in a polymer related industry. I have worked in Samsung for three years, and I wish to continue my career as a researcher in polymeric materials.

Three things most people don’t know about me: I married when I was 25. I served the Korean military for three years and was a swimming athlete for 9 years.

What I will remember most about my time here at UT: All of the opportunities to collaborate with other students and labs.

The biggest difference between undergraduate and graduate studies: Graduate school is not about getting good grades. Moreover, most of the study you do may not be expected. I strongly encourage you to think out of the box and do crazy things (but make sure it’s safe), since most of the great findings came from unexpected things.